25 Gear Essentials

There's the gear you want, and there's the gear you need. After much internal debate, we present the 25 products every guy should own.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

It's not that we have anything against wheeled luggage. It's just that we like to go places where there's no pavement. That's why we're such big fans of The North Face's Base Camp Duffel. It's water-resistant and nearly indestructible. It has surprisingly comfortable backpack straps and daisy chains for strapping it to the top of a bus or truck. And the largest of its four sizes fits some 155 liters of gear, or the equivalent of two expedition backpacks. From $110; thenorthface.com

First Ascent Igniter Jacket

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: First Ascent's Igniter jacket.

First Ascent Igniter Jacket

First Ascent Igniter jacket

We love down as much as the next guy. But nothing beats the versatility of synthetics—which don't crap out once they get wet. We're especially fond of First Ascent's warmer-than-it-looks, PrimaLoft-filled Igniter, which is svelte enough to wear under a hard shell. $199; firstascent.com

Black Diamond's Spot Headlamp

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Black Diamond's Spot headlamp.

Black Diamond's Spot Headlamp

Black Diamond's Spot Headlamp

You only need a few light settings, the brightest of which should be powerful enough for night hikes. And the smaller the better, like Black Diamond's Spot. $40; blackdiamondequipment.com

K2 SideStash Skis

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: K2's SideStash skis.

K2 SideStash Skis

K2 SideStash Skis

No, one ski can't do everything. But last year's Gear of the Year–winning K2 SideStash comes pretty close. A rockered tip and 108mm waist help lift you out of soft snow—while its flat and square-tapered tail lets you lay them over with confidence on hardpack. $950; k2skis.com

REI's Half Dome 2 Plus

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: REI's Half Dome 2 Plus.

REI Half Dome 2 Plus

REI's Half Dome 2 Plus

Room for two people and a dog. Light enough for backpacking. Plenty of mesh. Two doors and two vestibules. The best-designed tents these days, like REI's 5.4-pound Half Dome 2 Plus, no longer sacrifice comfort for weight. $199; rei.com

Merrell's Whiteout 8 Waterproof Boots

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Merrell's Whiteout 8 Waterproof boots.

Merrell Whiteout 8 Waterproof Boots

Merrell's Whiteout 8 Waterproof Boots

Whether you're snowshoeing or snow shoveling, you need a pair of sturdy, insulated boots. Merrell's Whiteout 8 Waterproof boots are packed with thick synthetic insulation and can handle temps well below zero. $130; merrell.com

DeLorme's PN-60 GPS

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: DeLorme's PN-60 GPS.

DeLorme PN-60 GPS

DeLorme's PN-60 GPS

We don't care how good your sense of direction is. Everybody gets turned around once in a while. Invest in a good GPS, like DeLorme's PN-60—easy to use, blazing fast, and it can be loaded with high-res maps and aerial photos. $400; delorme.com

La Sportiva Wildcat GTX Trail Shoes

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: La Sportiva’s Wildcat GTX trail shoes.

La Sportiva Wildcat GTX Trail Shoes
La Sportiva Wildcat GTX Trail Shoes (Courtesy of La Sportiva)

Because they like to run, hike, and scramble, a pair of waterproof trail runners—like La Sportiva's burly, 13.7-ounce Wildcat GTXs—gets our nod for ultimate utility footwear. $125; sportiva.com

Smith Optics Hideouts Sunglasses

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Smith Optics' Hideouts sunglasses.

Smith Optics Hideout sunglasses
Smith Optics Hideout sunglasses (Courtesy of Smith Optics)

If they have brown-tinted (a.k.a. amber or copper) lenses, big-time coverage, and a secure fit, even when things get bumpy (look for hydrophilic rubber pads at the temples and nose), like Smith Optics' Hideouts, then you can wear them for just about everything. $179; smithoptics.com

Louis Garneau Vector UX Trek 824 Snowshoes

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Louis Garneau's Vector UX Trek 824 snowshoes.

Louis Garneau Vector UX Trek 824 Snowshoes

Louis Garneau Vector UX Trek 824 Snowshoes

A multipurpose, midsize snowshoe like Louis Garneau's Vector UX Trek 824 can handle all conditions, from steep and icy hard-packed trails to blankets of fresh powder on frozen lakes. $165; louisgarneau.com

Westcomb's Recon Cargo Pants

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Westcomb's Recon Cargo Pants.

Westcomb's Recon Cargo Pants

Westcomb's Recon Cargo Pants

They breathe well. They're tough enough to bushwhack in. They're highly water-resistant. And the best of them, like Westcomb's stretchy Recon Cargo Pants, are low-key enough that you can wear them around town. $200; westcomb.com

Leatherman Wave Multitool

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Leatherman's Wave multitool.

Leatherman Wave Multitool

Leatherman Wave Multitool

Our office is littered with multitools. But the one we rely the most on? Leatherman's Wave. It's compact, comprehensive (17 tools), and basically indestructible. $99; leatherman.com

Keen Newport H2 Sandals

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Keen's Newport H2 sandals.

Keen Newport H2 Sandals

Keen Newport H2 Sandals

Lots of sandals will stay on your foot even if you end up swimming a rapid. But we prefer Keen's Newport H2's for one reason: the added protection that the toe bumper and beefy sidewalls provide. $95; keenfootwear.com

Sierra Designs Trade Wind Sleeping Bag

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Sierra Designs' Trade Wind sleeping bag.

Sierra Designs Trade Wind Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Trade Wind Sleeping Bag

Just warm enough for cold fall nights, but not too hot for summer. And we prefer down to syn­thetic (more compressible and comfy), especially if it's wrapped in highly water-resistant fabric, like Sierra Designs' Trade Wind is. $270; sierradesigns.com

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Arc'teryx's Beta AR jacket.

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket

This is one item worth splurging on. And few waterproof-breathable jackets fit as well, are as durable, or are constructed with as much attention to detail as Arc'teryx's Beta AR, a lightweight (15.3-ounce), do-it-all alpine shell made of Pro Shell, Gore-Tex's best stuff. $425; arcteryx.com

Yakima and Thule Roof Boxes

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Yakima and Thule roof boxes.

Roof boxes like Yakima's RocketBox (from $279; yakima.com) or Thule's Frontier ($330; thule.com) are pricey, but because you can just throw all your gear in, lock it up, and forget it, they're actually worth the dough.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Camera

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS7 camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Camera (Courtesy of Panasonic)

It needs to be ultra-slim and take HD video. Beyond that, it's personal preference, and we love that Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS7 tags your (impressively sharp) photos with GPS coordinates and sports a whopping 12x zoom—the equivalent of a 300mm telephoto. $400; panasonic.net

Marmot Vars Half Zip Jacket

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Marmot's Vars Half Zip jacket.

Marmot Vars Half Zip Jacket

Marmot Vars Half Zip Jacket

Of all the jackets we own, nothing sees as much action as a stretchy, midweight microfleece layer like Marmot's Vars Half Zip. $140; marmot.com

Gordini Approach Gloves

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Gordini's Approach gloves.

Gordini Approach Gloves

Gordini Approach Gloves

With leather fingers and waterproof soft-shell panels, Gordini's Approach gloves are the kind of tough, affordable gloves that work for just about anything when there's a chill. $50; gordini.com

New Balance 1226 Running Shoes

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: New Balance's 1226 running shoes.

New Balance 1226 Running Shoes

New Balance 1226 Running Shoes

For most runners, New Balance's 1226 hits the sweet spot: plenty of cushioning for long runs on pavement and just enough stability for mild overpronators—and all at a weight (12.7 ounces) that never feels like a drag. $140; newbalance.com

Timex Ironman Race Trainer Watch

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Timex's Ironman Race Trainer watch.

Timex Ironman Race Trainer

Timex Ironman Race Trainer

The quickest way to take your fitness to the next level is simply to start keeping track. The tool: a stopwatch with a basic heart-rate monitor, like Timex's Ironman Race Trainer. $150; timex.com

Osprey Aether Backpack

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Osprey's Aether backpack.

Osprey Aether Backpack

Osprey Aether Backpack

One thing all our gear testers agree on: Osprey consistently makes the best packs. And if we're heading into the backcountry, chances are we're filling up Osprey's 60-liter Aether. At five pounds, it's light enough for overnights, but just big and stable enough to cram with a multi-day load. $229; ospreypacks.com

Big Agnes Sleeping Pad

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Big Agnes's Diversion Insulated Air Core Recycled sleeping pad.

Big Agnes Diversion Insulated Air Core Recycled sleeping pad

Big Agnes Diversion Insulated Air Core Recycled sleeping pad

One thing to never skimp on: the sleeping pad. Big Agnes's Diversion Insulated Air Core Recycled is a luxurious 2.5 inches thick but packs down to the size of a bread loaf. From $90; bigagnes.com

Old Town Penobscot Canoe

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Old Town's Penobscot canoe.

Old Town Penobscot Canoe

Old Town Penobscot Canoe

If we could have only one boat, it'd have to be a Royalex canoe, like Old Town's Penobscot (from $1,389; oldtowncanoe.com), which is indestructible, fast, and agile enough for mellow whitewater.

Specialized Epic Comp 29 Mountain Bike

On our 2010 Life List of gear we can't live without: Specialized Epic Comp 29 mountain bike.

Mountain Bike
(Courtesy of Specialized)

We're officially smitten with 29ers—mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels. Jump on a big-wheeled full-suspension rig like Specialized's Epic Comp 29 and you'll see why. $2,800; specialized.com

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